For more than half of the fifteen years I have been driving, I have owned an estate car, three of them in fact; partly because I am partial to the look of an estate, partly because I love the practicality of them and partly because they accommodate two medium sized dogs and all my camera equipment with ease.
During this time of owning estate cars I have always longed for a lifted four wheel drive model such as an Audi All-Road or Volvo Cross Country model with their extended wheel arches, greater ground clearance and generally high spec as standard; however I have never made the jump for various reasons.
That jump for me could be closer however as SEAT have launched the very attractive and well equipped “Leon X-Perience 4Drive” which is more or less a Leon ST with a suspension lift, plastic arch extensions, more limited engines and a clever all wheel drive system.
When I say limited engines, there is actually only one engine available, however it comes in two power output options, each with a different gearbox. The engine chosen for the X-Perience is the tried and tested 2.0L TDi lump so plenty of torque is on hand immediately.
The 150bhp variant is mated to a manual gearbox whilst the 184bhp variant comes with the renowned DSG automatic gearbox. If there was ever a question to be asked about the gearbox choice then the one to opt for would most certainly be the DSG. Average consumption of both engines is just shy of 60mpg and on my real world test drive of the 150bhp manual over two days (all of which was town driving) returned a respectable 43mpg roughly.
The power of these engines is put onto the road via the Haldex four wheel drive system which can be found in various Volkswagen Audi Group models and again is one of those systems that has stood the test of time and performance and has developed to become incredibly smart and works by applying power to the wheels with the most grip.
When on the road the 4Drive system will generally only be driving the front wheels to help with economy thus making it no different to the Leon ST or any other model, however once on rough ground, snow or slippery roads the X-Perience really comes into its own.
Handling is predictable and actually surprisingly firm considering the higher suspension with larger tyre walls, you would expect a little roll and weight transfer while cornering but it behaved well and the added height allows owners to actually X-Perience going off the beaten track with relative ease.
Like all car-derived four wheel drive models, it’s not a true off road vehicle per say, more of a vehicle to suit the adventurous city slicker or the true country lifestyle. The boot is huge to say the least and would swallow a families camping gear for a week in the mountains or indeed a few spaniels with associated sporting goods during the winter months for the gentry.
Inside there is plenty of tech too as expected for a new new model; sports seats, dual zone climate control, cruise control, touch screen infotainment with Bluetooth USB and memory card slot as standard on all models. With the SE Tech model adding DAB radio, alcantara trimmed seats; 18” alloy wheels, auto wipers and sat nav.
The sports seats are very supportive and comfortable while all dash controls are within safe reach. Rear room is superb also (in fact the size and comfort of this car would remind me of a modern updated version of my Passat as a comparison of size).
With a tow bar fitted the X-Perience is rated to tow 2 tonne making it a very acceptable and capable steed for the boating fraternity or those who live in the country and need a practical car that can easily double up for light working duties and prices start from £24,920.
During my time with the 4Drive SEAT I must say it was an enjoyable X-Perience and a genuinely nice place to be, on road it was predictable and off the beaten track more than capable.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry